Mystery deepens as more desert kites found hidden in sands of Saudi Arabia

The stone circles and structures, known as kites, have been found mainly in Saudi Arabia’s western region. Aerial surveys discovered more nestled between the desert sands of the Great Nafud. (Supplied)
The stone circles and structures, known as kites, have been found mainly in Saudi Arabia’s western region. Aerial surveys discovered more nestled between the desert sands of the Great Nafud. (Duhim Alduhim)
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Updated 07 November 2021

Mystery deepens as more desert kites found hidden in sands of Saudi Arabia

The stone circles and structures, known as kites, have been found mainly in Saudi Arabia’s western region. Aerial surveys discovered more nestled between the desert sands of the Great Nafud. (Supplied)
  • Desert kites in Hail shed light on Arabian Peninsula’s indigenous people, their trade routes, landmarks, worship areas, burial places, more

MAKKAH: Crossing over into the Hail region, east of Madinah, the mystery deepens on the extent of the Arabian Peninsula’s ancient desert civilizations as more desert kites are found.

The stone circles and structures, known as kites, have been found mainly in the Kingdom’s western region. Aerial surveys found more nestled between the desert sands of the Great Nafud.
Believed to be Neolithic, the polygons, funnel, and triangle-looking structures are mainly concentrated near the Harrat Khaybar Lava fields in the west, some that date back to the fourth and seventh centuries B.C. The structures in Hail are found in Qaa Al-Sibaq near the town of Shuwaimis, northwest of Hail.
More than 5,800 desert kites have been discovered across Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kazakhstan, with the highest concentration found in Syria with 2,500 kites.
Hidden treasures of the Kingdom’s vast deserts remain unseen and are waiting to be discovered. Desert kites are sophisticated and well-engineered structures whose purpose remains a secret to this day.
Dr. Salma Hawsawi, a professor of ancient history at King Saud University, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia has an abundance of stone circles, kites, and structures scattered all over the Kingdom. Many desert kites were found in the area north of Madinah (Khaybar, Fadak, AlUla). The large slabs are in different shapes: Circles, triangles, ovals, raised stones, stone piles, squares, and arcs.
Hawsawi said the kites were geometric shapes that may be connected or unconnected to each other. They may be part of a building or separate, or stone piles: A group of stones on top of each other in a gradual form, not consistent in size or shape.
“Some of the triangles have small, large, and hollow bases, parallel and successive, opposite at the vertex,” she said. “There are also circles with a middle point, hollow points, irregular, flat, and overlapping stones. Other shapes include circles with a square in the middle, small and large ovals, ovals overlapping with circles and squares, irregular squares, hollow and irregular rectangles, and rectangles stacked on top of each other.”

FASTFACTS

• Believed to be Neolithic, the polygons, funnel, and triangle-looking structures are mainly concentrated near the Harrat Khaybar Lava fields in the west, some that date back to the fourth and seventh centuries B.C. The structures in Hail are found in Qaa Al-Sibaq near the town of Shuwaimis, northwest of Hail. 

• More than 5,800 desert kites have been discovered across Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kazakhstan, with the highest concentration found in Syria with 2,500 kites.

Hawsawi added: “In the same context, there are points in the middle of the circles or at their ends, points around the buildings and around the circle and the straight line, points in a zigzag or straight line, parallel, interconnected and separate arcs, in addition to unclear shapes.”
Archaeological surveys conducted in 1976 found that these kites extend from the north of Wadi Sarhan to the Hail region. A year later, it was found that this area opened to the Al-Kahifiya suburb in the south. The spread of the kites showed the effect of the environment on the shape of the structure and the differences between one area to the next.
“The reason why these shapes are built in the way the area varies depends on the place where they were found. They could be trade routes, landmarks to guide caravans, or placed in certain areas as a place for worship, or to mark a residential area, or a burial place, or that it was used for hunting,” she said.
Hawsawi pointed out that the concentration of these circles and kites around oases, water pools, and settlements, in Khaybar, Fadak, AlUla, up to Hail and Makkah, indicated that they were rest areas for trade caravans, especially since the Silk Road was linked to the north of the Arabian Peninsula through a secondary road from Persia.
After the road leaves Samarkand, it goes to Persia, then to Merv, a crossroads. The route then goes to Tifson, to Hit on the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia, and then heads to Palmyra, then to the coasts of the Mediterranean extending to Europe, according to Hawsawi.
“The reason why Silk Road merchants preferred to pass through the north of the Arabian Peninsula was the safety that the inhabitants of the north Arabian Peninsula provided for the trade convoys and that the land roads in the region were easier, better for transit, and safer for trade convoys,” Hawsawi said.
She also pointed out that the southern road started from the port of Qena in Egypt then headed toward Shabwa, the capital of the Kingdom of Hadramout, from which the route extended through the capitals of the southern kingdoms Qataban, Sheba, and Main, all in modern-day Yemen.
The main commercial road reaches Najran, from which it branches into two sections, one of them towards north and northwest, along the coast of the Red Sea, passing through Tathleeth and Bisha. Then a branch of the road heads towards Makkah, while the main road continues to Yathrib (Madinah), then to Dedan and Lehyan until the first century B.C. The route then switches to Al-Hijr.
An American study, according to Hawsawi, found that the kites found in AlUla are older than the Pyramids of Giza and the stone circles of Stonehenge in the UK, which are more than 7,000 years old.
“These circles and kites reflect the extent of development reached by the ancient civilizations living in the Peninsula and how deeply rooted in history the lands that make up Saudi Arabia is today,” Hawsawi said.


Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan

Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan
Updated 01 December 2021

Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan

Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan
  • Travelers will need a valid PCR certificate and register on the Qdoom platform 72 hours before their flight

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ban on direct travel from a number of countries came  to an end on Wednesday, as the country continues to relax travel restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Travelers from six countries — India, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil and Vietnam — can now arrive in the Kingdom without having to spend 14 days outside those countries before entering Saudi Arabia.

The travelers will need a valid PCR certificate and register on the Qdoom platform 72 hours before their flight departs.

They will also need to enter institutional quarantine for five days when they arrive, regardless of their immunization status outside the Kingdom, and will need to take tests on the first and fifth days of their quarantine.

Though Saudi Arabia has eased travel from some destinations, it has been forced to implement new restrictions on some African countries after a concerning new coronavirus variant, omicron, was detected in South Africa last week.


What’s on in December in Saudi Arabia’s crowded cultural calendar

What’s on in December in Saudi Arabia’s crowded cultural calendar
Updated 01 December 2021

What’s on in December in Saudi Arabia’s crowded cultural calendar

What’s on in December in Saudi Arabia’s crowded cultural calendar
  • First up will be Misk Art Week, annual weeklong program to be held at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh
  • Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is probably the biggest attraction of the Kingdom’s upcoming cultural season

DUBAI: In common with other parts of the world, art, culture, and entertainment took a back seat in Saudi Arabia during the worst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But now, with infection rates under control in the Kingdom thanks to a successful immunization campaign, a two-year period of event closures and cancellations has finally ended.

Take December, which promises to be an especially action-packed month in the Saudi cultural calendar, with events running the gamut from in-person exhibitions and concerts to grand openings, many of which had been rescheduled since the onset of the pandemic.

First up will be Misk Art Week, opening at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh on Dec. 1. This annual weeklong program of exhibitions is being staged by the Misk Art Institute, operating under the auspices of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Then comes the first edition of Riyadh Art, billed as the largest public civic arts initiative of its kind in the world. Running from Dec. 5 to 8, it will feature 12 programs launched by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City to transform the Saudi capital into “a gallery without walls.”

Meanwhile, over in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, the Jameel Art Center is scheduled to open its long-awaited, multidisciplinary arts complex, Hayy Jameel, on Dec. 6.

Also coming to Jeddah in December is the annual Red Sea Film Festival. The Dec. 6 to 15 event, first launched in 2019, prides itself on featuring emerging talents from Saudi Arabia, the Arab region, and the developing world.

Then, to crown it all, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale opens on Dec. 11 in the new JAX district of Diriyah, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site At-Turaif, the first capital of the House of Saud dynasty founded in the 15th century. The event — Saudi Arabia’s first — will run until March 11.

Culture is an integral part of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan, launched five years ago to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil as well as to embrace sectors such as tourism, technology and the creative industries.

Philip Tinari, director and chief executive officer of the Beijing-based UCCA Center for Contemporary Art and the lead curator behind the Diriyah biennale, told Arab News: “This is an art scene on the brink of greatly increased prominence and much of that has to do with government initiatives at all kinds of levels.

“Another big part of it has to do with this generation of artists who, maybe before these changes, were living abroad and have now decided to move home where they are finding new vectors of support.”

Before the COVID-19 outbreak morphed into a pandemic in early 2020, Saudi Arabia was gearing up to become a global destination for the arts.

Seasonal festivals were already popping up throughout the country and the ancient northwestern city of AlUla was staging a variety of concerts, conferences, and open-air exhibitions.

The cultural explosion was triggered partly by the Kingdom’s decision to open up to foreign tourists in September 2019 with a new electronic visa scheme. However, as the health crisis went global a few months later, the country was forced to close its doors once again.

Now that international travel has resumed with COVID-19 protocols in place, the cultural floodgates are open once more and visitors to the Kingdom are spoilt for choice.

FASTFACTS

• The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is the biggest attraction of Riyadh’s crowded cultural season.

• Hayy Jameel, designed by architectural studio waiwai, is Art Jameel’s new dedicated home for the arts in Jeddah.

Hayy Jameel is among the most hotly anticipated openings of the year. Designed by the multi-award-winning architectural studio waiwai, Art Jameel’s new dedicated home for the arts in Jeddah has been billed as a dynamic, creative hub for the community.

Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, told Arab News: “Hayy Jameel has been in the planning for more than 20 years, but it couldn’t have come to fruition at a timelier moment.

“The launch of our creative neighborhood accompanies an incredibly exciting calendar of events. The opening season opens to the public from Dec. 6 and unfolds through the spring, as cultural partners launch their spaces and we open the indie Hayy Cinema, making the complex Jeddah’s true home for the arts.”

In any event, the creative arts environment in Saudi Arabia is maturing fast, boosting demand for dedicated spaces for exhibitions, screenings and performances.

Carver said: “It needs independent, community-oriented endeavors working alongside the larger-scale government-led initiatives.

“The Ministry of Culture and other government entities are actively encouraging the not-for-profit sector and organizations like Art Jameel, given our mandate to give back to Saudi and support artists and nurture creative communities.

“To balance out the current breakneck pace of development, and demands on Saudi artists, we’re also aiming to foreground opportunities to develop long-term research, ideas, and skills; to explore and document local histories; develop contextual learning resources in Arabic; and to cross-pollinate the various creative art forms, bringing together visual arts, film, performance, architecture, design, and more.”

While Jeddah positions itself as one of the region’s foremost cultural destinations, Riyadh refuses to be outdone. First up in the Saudi capital’s cultural calendar is Misk Art Week.

Reem Al-Sultan, CEO of Misk Art Institute, told Arab News: “The fifth edition of Misk Art Week unites emerging and established artists in Saudi Arabia and across the globe with experts in critical and cultural discourse.

“Misk Art Institute offers an insightful array of multidisciplinary practices and international perspectives, providing a unique, educational experience to both the participating creatives and to the public engaging with these compelling conversations.”

Opening just a few days later will be Riyadh Art, staged by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, of which the Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium is part. The program includes an awards ceremony and will convene 20 sculptors from Saudi Arabia, the Arab region, and around the world.

Khalid Al-Hazzani, an architect and the RCRC’s director of projects, told Arab News: “Riyadh Art continues to transform the city into a gallery without walls with the launch of the Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium, its second initiative.

“As art and culture reflect the spirit of a city, we look forward to contributing to Riyadh’s vibrant art season this December and offering a platform for cross-cultural dialogue and exchange.”

The Riyadh Art Project is just one of the city’s four mega-projects launched by King Salman on March 19, 2019. Dubbed a milestone in Riyadh’s mission to become one of the world’s most livable cities, the initiative will involve the installation of more than 1,000 artworks across the metropolis.

The Diriyah biennale is undoubtedly the biggest attraction of the crowded cultural season. Developed by a team of international curators led by Tinari, the event will feature works by around 70 artists examining the theme, “Feeling the Stones.”

The biennial event will alternate each year between a contemporary art and an Islamic art exhibition under the auspices of the Diriyah Foundation, chaired by Prince Badr Al-Saud.

“I think the Diriyah biennale will consolidate much of the progress that has been made,” Tinari said, referring to Saudi Arabia’s cultural awakening.

“What is really special about it is the scale — spread across 12,000 square meters of newly converted warehouse space that will be dedicated to this event moving forward.

“I hope that the Diriyah biennale will become a benchmark for the scene more generally and that other kinds of art events will congregate around it.”

Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor


Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films

Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films
Updated 5 min 5 sec ago

Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films

Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films
  • In its first cycle, the fund carefully selected 90 ‘game-changing’ films from over 650 submissions

JEDDAH: The Red Sea Fund will support 26 Saudi films in a list of 90 carefully selected projects from the Arab World and Africa.
Following over 650 submissions, the fund on Tuesday announced its final selection of the much-anticipated projects, aiming to create a game-changing generation of filmmakers.
The grants will be given to 37 films in development, 33 live projects, and 28 films in post-production.
Of the projects to receive funding, 11 hail from Africa, 60 from the Arab region, and 26 from Saudi Arabia.
The exciting and unique selection includes 59 feature fictions, 18 feature documentaries, 10 short fictions, five feature animations, three episodic series, and two short animations.
The fund will also back 28 talented Saudi film directors, 54 percent of whom are female.
The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation established the fund in June to back 100 feature films, short projects, and episodics by directors from the Arab world and Africa.
The fund was supported earlier this year by the Saudi Film Commission to help a larger pool of talented filmmakers from the Kingdom and the Arab region bring their work from script to screen.
Three committees of industry professionals were formed for each section of the funding: Development, production, and post-production support.
Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of the Red Sea International Film Festival and head of the committee awarding funds for post-production, said: “There is a wealth of undiscovered talent in Saudi Arabia and across the Arab world. As pioneers and believers in the importance of cinema and film in driving inspiration, creativity, and innovation, we are very proud to enable these brilliant artists to showcase their work by investing in their talents and empowering them to realize their dreams through the Red Sea Fund.
“These exceptional cinematic works will challenge people’s perceptions of traditional cinema and revive the film industry in KSA and the region.”
He continued: “We truly cannot wait to see these selections come to fruition and find their way to the big screen.”


Erdogan: Turkey will work to enhance relations with Saudi Arabia

Erdogan: Turkey will work to enhance relations with Saudi Arabia
Updated 01 December 2021

Erdogan: Turkey will work to enhance relations with Saudi Arabia

Erdogan: Turkey will work to enhance relations with Saudi Arabia
  • The Turkish president also promised developments with Egypt

RIYADH: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will work to enhance its relations with Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya reported.

In May, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Makkah.

They agreed to “work on positive issues on our common agenda and to hold regular consultations,” Cavusoglu said, adding: “Our close cooperation will contribute to stability, peace and prosperity in the region.”

The president’s remarks were made on Tuesday during an interview on state-owned news channel TRT World.

Commenting on recent improvement in Turkish-UAE relations, Erdogan said: “The step we took with the UAE is important and historic, and I will visit the UAE in February.”

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed visited Ankara last week in his first official trip to Turkey since 2012.

The UAE announced a $10 billion fund for investments in Turkey, after the crown prince held talks with the Turkish president.

Erdogan also said in the interview: “We will witness developments with Egypt in the near future.”


Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched from Sanaa airport

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched from Sanaa airport
Updated 01 December 2021

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched from Sanaa airport

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched from Sanaa airport
  • The coalition also destroyed an explosive-ladened boat in the Red Sea

RIYADH: The Arab coalition destroyed and explosive drone launched from Sanaa airport, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The drone was downed in the governorate of Amran in Yemen.

The coalition also hit Houthi units, who they said were moving weapons.

The drone was assembled and rigged by the Houthi air defense unit at the airport, the coalition said.

Saudi Arabia’s air defenses often destroys the militia’s drones, which are launched from northern Yemen.

In a separate incident reported early Wednesday, the coalition destroyed an explosive-ladened boat in the Red Sea, saying the vessel set sail from Hodiedah governorate.

They said the Houthis’ threat to freedom of navigation at sea endangers regional and international security.

On Tuesday, the coalition hit Iranian Revolutionary Guard experts in Yemen’s capital.

The operation complies with international humanitarian law and its customary rules, the coalition said.

The Arab coalition has hit a number of sites in the capital in the past few weeks in an effort to deteriorate the capabilities of the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

Houthi attempts to target civilians has been labeled as war crimes by the Kingdom.

The Arab coalition has been supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government regain full control of the country after the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

The war, which has now lasted for seven years, has cost thousands of Yemenis their lives and has forced many more to depend on humanitarian assistance.